Bringing Consumer Financial Data to Life with BMO’s
“Real Financial Progress Index”

As the 8th largest bank in North America by assets, BMO, is an independent American subsidiary of the multinational investment bank and financial services company Bank of Montreal, which owns BMO through the holding company BMO Financial Corporation. Headquartered in Chicago, BMO is drives progress for individuals, families and businesses primary in Midwest and West Coast markets. BMO's commercial banking team provides a combination of sector expertise, local knowledge and mid-market focus throughout the United States.

The bank is focused on creating an inclusive society by removing barriers to access traditionally found in the financial industry. BMO’s Zero Barriers to Inclusion is part of a greater initiative called BMO-EMpower, a 40 Billion dollar commitment to “boldly grow the good” in communities across the country through a mix of philanthropy, community development, and minority commercial and small business lending.


Helping today’s consumers and small business owners achieve financial progress

BMO wanted to humanize the process of financial planning for diverse American and Canadian consumers and small business owners to reduce anxieties around money and help them achieve financial progress. The goal was to spark dialogue on how to save for emergencies, college, and the long-term, plan for retirement, invest, reduce debt, build credit responsibly, and navigate the housing market.

Actual was brought in to find creative activations that support BMO’s goal while developing highly-visible thought leadership platforms for its top executives, and garnering brand awareness through a robust media relations program. In February 2021, the team launced a multi-pronged, quarterly initiative called The Real Financial Progress Index (RFPI).


  • Development of Real Financial Progress Index quarterly survey for American and Canadian markets
  • Brand positioning that ties to BMO quarterly planning and initiatives
  • Executive thought leadership platform development
  • Press material development
  • Proactive media relations
  • Bylines and thought leadership article development
  • Top tier media relationship building
  • Quarterly theme planning
  • Ipsos vendor management
  • Raw data analysis and data translations for media outreach
  • Financial market analysis
  • Competitive market analysis
  • Year-over-year analysis and planning
  • Content activations (E-books, infographics)


Creating meaningful dialogue in the United States and Canada around BMO’s mission

Year-over-year, the Real Financial Progress Index quarterly survey gains incredible momentum. Today, the survey measures sentiment and attributes around financial progress at the national level (U.S. and Canada) with oversampling in local markets in the U.S. and Canada. In partnership with Ipsos, a multinational market research and consulting firm, research is based on a set of core questions that over time are used to create an Index for a simple articulation of sentiment around Real Financial Progress.

The quarterly process:

  • Actual and BMO work to define quarterly themes and then coordinate with assessments from the Ipsos public affairs team. A second set of questions based on current economics is used to generate other interesting headline-worthy personal finance stats.
  • The survey enters the field. Once the survey data is in, Actual and Ipsos present findings to BMO.
  • BMO and Actual identify executives as spokespeople for media relations
  • Actual writes a summarization press release and manages media outreach and interviews


Defining what financial progress means to Americans and Canadians

The program has become such a big success that BMO is creating a separate website and initiative called which tethers to the overarching BMO brand.

As the survey expands, BMO and Actual continue to develop new focus segments, such as inflation and recession concerns and women and money. Top tier reporters seek out the RFPI results each quarter and many have now become BMO “friendlies.”

Results highlights

  • In one year, from 2021-2022, Actual saw a 140% increase in article frequency 
  • Top media mentions in 2021 and 2022 included: CNBC, NBC News, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes, Cheddar TV, Insider Intelligence, Fox Business, Marketplace, American Banker, Time/Next Advisor, Payments, Money Life with Chuck Jaffe,, Gary Vaynerchuk on TikTok, US News, NASDAQ, Motley Fool, and MSN
  • Actual netted a 15,000% increase in media mentions for BMO’s top executives over the last year. Nine BMO executives have been featured in coverage to date.
  • A TikTok share of the RFPI results from Prime Time influencer, Gary Vaynerchuk resulted in a total readership of 53M, nearly 200k likes and 30k shares.